ABRAM AND LOT

GENESIS 13:1-18

 

We have already noted that there were two additional characters introduced along with Abram at the beginning of the narrative dealing with that patriarch.The first was Sarai.The second is Lot.In the last chapter, we saw how the problem revolved around Sarai as Abram entered Egypt and was fearful of her being coveted by the pharaoh.Even though Abram acted in unbelief, the Lord was faithful to intervene and to deliver both Abram and Sarai out of that situation.

 

Now as they return to the land of Canaan, they are beset with a new problem.This new problem will revolve around Lot, the nephew of Abram.He will play a central part in the events of this chapter.

 

Abram builds an altar at Bethel (13:1-7).

 

 

Abramís speech: His offer of the land (13:8-9).

 

 

Lotís choice of Sodom (13:10-13).

 

 

Godís speech: His offer of the land (13:14-17).

 

Abram builds an altar at Hebron (13:18).

 

 

Placed as bookends in this chapter are Abramís actions in building an altar to the Lord.This will be a chapter that sees Abram demonstrate a heart of worship and a heart of humility.

 

 

RETURN TO CANAAN

 

††††††††††† 1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him; and Lot with him.

††††††††††† 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 3 And he went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar, which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 13:1-4).

 

God had already begun to bless Abram with prosperity as had been promised in the initial call to Abram.Did Abram deserve this?No, Abram's actions had been less than desirable.He had departed from the land of promise, he had gone down to Egypt and he had lied about his relationship with his own wife.That Abram had been blessed was a matter of grace.

 

Grace involves the receiving of that which you do not deserve and which you have not earned.By its very nature, grace is something that you do not merit, otherwise it is no longer grace.

 

The return from Egypt saw Abram very rich in livestock and in silver and in gold.Abram had prospered materially from his sojourn in Egypt.But he had lost some things in Egypt.

 

1.†††††††† He had lost his communion with the Lord.

 

Abram did not build any altars in Egypt.We are not told that he proclaimed the name of the Lord to Pharaoh.We do not see him in prayer or believing the promises of God.

 

2.†††††††† He had lost his testimony before men.

 

It is often true that the worst testimony to Christianity is Christians.While Abram had been in Egypt, the chosen one of God had been rebuked by an idol-worshiping pagan.

 

3.†††††††† He had lost his influence on others.

 

Lot had gone with his uncle Abram down into Egypt.Lot had seen the lie and its results.He had seen the lack of faith in his uncle.I cannot help but think that he had lost a measure of respect for the one who had been the spiritual leader of the family.This lack of respect will be reflected later in Lotís decision.

 

Abramís return to Canaan is described in terms of a restoration.He has been in Egypt where he lied and was delivered by the hand of the Lord, but now he returns to Canaan and comes again to the same locale where he had originally sacrificed to the Lord.The same place.The same altar.Abram does the same thing he did the first time.He calls upon the name of the Lord.

 

What we see here is the picture of a man restored in his faith.The lies of Egypt have been left behind.He has returned to worship the Lord.As Abram returns to the Promised Land and again builds an altar and calls upon the name of the Lord, we are able to see the way in which we also make our return when we have allowed sinful actions to enter our lives.

 

††† ē†††††† Confess it.If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).Acknowledge that you have sinned and that your sin is hated by God.

 

††† ē†††††† Get away from it.Just as Abram did not build another altar and begin proclaiming the name of the Lord until he had departed from Egypt, so also you cannot effectively serve the Lord unless you separate yourself from your sin.This means putting the sin and, if possible, the reason for the sin away from you.Jesus alluded to such a process in Matthew 5:29-30 when he said that if your right eye is going to cause you to stumble, it is better to go through life without a right eye.

 

††† ē†††††† Move on from there.Paul spoke in Philippians 3:13-14 of forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead as you press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.By contrast, Satan wants to burden you with guilt so that you will remain at the point of your failure and never be able to move on from there.

 

Abram seems to be a changed man.The Abram who comes out of Egypt at the beginning of Genesis 13 is not the same Abram who went down into Egypt in Genesis 12.This Abram had learned the tragic consequences of a life of selfishness.He had been rebuked by a pagan king.He had nearly lost his family.He had been humbled.Now he is ready to be confronted with a new situation.

 

 

TROUBLE WITH LOT

 

††††††††††† 5 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. (Genesis 13:5-7).

 

Lot was the nephew to Abram.His own father had died back in Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:27-28).Abram had taken his nephew into his own family and Lot had traveled with Abram down into Canaan.Lot had gone to Egypt and had seen the disastrous results of Abramís deception and now Lot is again with his uncle in Canaan.It is not long before trouble arises.

 

We are specifically told that the ensuing strife was between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock.This does not necessitate that Abram and Lot entered into this same strife.On the other hand, the fact that Abram sees it necessary for he and Lot to separate suggests that there was a rift between the two of them and that it went deeper than merely overzealous herdsmen.

 

The trouble faced in this chapter stands in direct contrast with this situation that had been faced in the previous chapter.In chapter 12, the trouble facing Abram had been a famine in the land.A famine involved a lack of rainfall resulting in a lack of provisions.Now the trouble is of a different nature.It involves too much prosperity.The land will not support the herds of both Abram and Lot.

 

Genesis 12:10-20

Genesis 13

They faced a famine in the land -- a problem involving a lack of prosperity

They faced an overabundance of flocks -- a problem involving an overabundance of prosperity.

The solution had been to travel down to Egypt.

The solution is that they separate -- Lot travels down to the land that is reminiscent of Egypt.

 

Verse 7 goes out of the way to make mention of the Canaanite and the Perizzite who were living in the land at this time.Why are they mentioned?Because it was in their midst that Abram has been proclaiming the name of the Lord.Perhaps Abram had shared with them the promise of God for a Deliverer who would come through the seed of the woman.

 

Now these Canaanites and Perizzites see the servants of two believers in the Lord as they begin to quarrel and fight among themselves.What will they think?How will the name of the Lord be glorified by these events?

 

 

ABRAMíS GRACIOUS SOLUTION

 

††††††††††† 8 Then Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me: if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." (Genesis 13:8-9).

 

Abram has a decision to make.He is faced with the problem of continuing conflict between his servants and the servants of Lot and he must decide how to deal with it.The obvious solution will be for them to separate.There is a lesson here.It is that there are times when it is necessary for two believers to admit that they need some distance between the two of them.

 

This brings us to another question.How does one go about making difficult decisions?There are several factors that we can observe in Abramís case.

 

1.†††††††† The Factor of Circumstances.

 

We have already noted the problem of strife between the servants of Abram and the servants of Lot.Their circumstances were such that called for these two men to go their separate ways.There is a principle here.It is that God regularly uses circumstances to work out His plan and to guide His people.This will be seen again when we come to the life of Joseph.The brothers of Joseph will do some bad things, but Joseph will be able to look back and to see how, in spite of their evil intentions, God had planned it all for good (Genesis 50:20).

 

This is how God often works in the lives of young people.It is a part of Godís plan that the young personís mother and father are in authority over him, even though the parents might be unbelievers (Colossians 3:20).The objection might arise that an unsaved parent is not spiritually equipped to offer guidance, but this objection does not bring the sovereignty of God into the picture.We are not dealing with a closed system in which God cannot or does not intervene.We worship the God of the universe who is able to rule and govern His creation.He calls us to live accordingly and to trust Him for the results (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

2.†††††††† The Factor of Biblical Principles.

 

The second factor that we ought to use is that of Biblical principles.We ought to let the principles of the Bible guide our decision making process.Abram was able to do this, too.He had already been told by God that he would be a blessing to the world.In light of this promise, he had come into the land where he could proclaim the name of the Lord before the watching world.That proclamation was now being drowned out by the strife between his shepherds and the shepherds of Lot.A separation between himself and Lot will allow Abram to continue to be a blessing to the part of the world in which he lives.

 

This brings up another question.Having decided that a separation is necessary, where is Abram to go for this separation to take place?We often come to understand what it is we are to do in the Christian life, but then comes the question of where we are to do it.This brings us to a third factor.

 

3.†††††††† The Factor of Self Sacrifice.The way in which Abram approaches Lot indicates to us that he has yielded all of his personal rights to the Lord.Abram owned the land.It was his by divine promise.The Lord had given it to him.Abram had every right to tell Lot where he could go.Instead, Abram yields all of his rights to God.In this way, he allows God free reign to show His personal will and guidance.This is a measure of his faith.That brings us to the fourth factor.

 

4.†††††††† The Factor of Faith.Abram had developed a confidence that God would guide him.His confidence is seen in that he leaves the choice to the Lord.He permits God to show him the divine place through the decision of Lot.

 

Each of these factors can be seen in the decision of Jesus to go to the cross.The circumstances of His life directed that He would go to the cross.Galatians 4:4 tells us that His birth took place at the fulness of time.The circumstances of His death were ordered by the Lord and Herod and Pilate did those things that Godís hand had purposed and predestined to occur (Acts 4:28).

 

The decision of Jesus to go to the cross was also directed by the Scriptures.Those same Scriptures foretold the death He would die.Peter tells us in Acts 3:18 how God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer.

 

The decision of Jesus to go to the cross was rooted in self sacrifice.He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin, dying the death we deserved so that we could enter into the life He deserved.In going to the cross, Jesus yielded up all of His personal rights, submitting Himself to the will of the Father.

 

The decision of Jesus to go to the cross was a decision of faith.Hebrews 5:8 says that He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.This was an obedience of faith in that He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

 

 

LOTíS DECISION

 

††††††††††† 10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere‑‑ this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah‑‑ like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other.

††††††††††† 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. (Genesis 13:10-13).

 

As Lot looked to the east of the central mountain ridge of Canaan, he would have seen the Jordan River Valley.It was well watered everywhere.The one place in Israel where there is a constant flow of water is the Jordan River.Fed by the melting snows of Mount Herman, this river overflows it banks in the spring and it narrows to a small, muddy stream in the fall, but it does not dry up completely.

 

Why does the author mention Egypt?It is because, to the minds of his readers, Egypt was the most fruitful place they had ever seen.Indeed, every time the Israelites in the wilderness encountered difficulties, they would immediately wish they were back in Egypt.By comparing Lotís choice to Egypt, the writer is identifying this slave mentality with Lotís desire for Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

If the decision of Abram portrays how a spiritual believer makes a decision, the example of Lot presents how a worldly person makes a decision.This passage lists for us the factors that went into Lotís decision.

 

1.†††††††† The Factor of Apparent Delights: Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (13:10).

 

The first factor that went into Lotís decision involved what he saw with his eyes.This was a materialistic mindset and it shows us that Lot was not concerned with spiritual results as much as he was with physical criteria.

 

2.†††††††† The Factor of Financial and Social Gain.

 

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were reminiscent of the land of Egypt from which Abram and Lot had recently come.It is likely that Lot had been enamored with Egypt.It was a rich land and culturally advanced beyond anything Lot had previously seen.Lot made his decision based on what would be financially and socially best for himself, without regard to what Godís will was for his life.

 

3.†††††††† The Factor of Independent Desire.

 

We never read of Lot building an altar or calling upon the name of the Lord.There is no prayer or seeking the Lord for guidance.It does not appear that the Lord was either consulted or considered.

 

Lotís choice is seen in strong contrast to that which had been made by Abram.

 

Abram

Lot

God led him by means of his circumstances.

He took advantage of his circumstances.

His choice led to the furtherance of the divine commission.

His choice led to the furtherance of his own wealth and social status.

He yielded up all his personal rights.

He took the rights that were properly that of his uncle.

He left the choice up to the Lord.

He made his own decision.

 

Out of all the cities of the plain, Lot chose to camp near Sodom.This city would becomea symbol for wickedness.Lotís move to this location would begin a downward spiral in which he would eventually fall into great sin.There is a principle here.It is that association often leads to compromise resulting in sin.

 

Association

Compromise

Overt Sin

 

When you go outside on a rainy day wearing white gloves and pick up a ball of mud, spreading it over your hands, the mud hardly ever becomes ďglovey.ĒRather the pollution of the mud makes the gloves muddy.Lotís association with the city of Sodom would soon result in an eroding of his spiritual values.In the same way, when you allow yourself to enter into close fellowship with unbelievers, it is often the case that you are pulled down.

 

The location of Sodom and Gomorrah has been the source of considerable discussion.All attempts to conclusively identify the ruins of these cities have thus far met with failure.Several theories have been put forth as to their original location.

 

The traditional location for these cities has been the southern section of the Dead Sea.This southern portion of the Dead Sea has been submerged beneath 15-30 feet of water throughout most of recorded history, but recent diversion of the waters of the Jordan have resulted in a lowering of the level of the Dead Sea so that this entire area today is dry.Ruins of several ancient cities have been uncovered along the east side of this area, but none have been positively identified as corresponding to the names of the cities given in Genesis.

 

 

THE LORDíS PROMISE TO ABRAM

 

††††††††††† 14 And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you."

††††††††††† 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD. (Genesis 13:14-18).

 

It must be recognized that, to the ancient reader of the text, Lot would have appeared at the beginning of this narrative to be the solution to the running problem of the Abrahamic Narrative.Abram had been given a promise by God that from him would come a great nation.How was this to take place in light of the fact that Sarah was barren and could not bear any children?Perhaps the required offspring would come through Lot.He was, after all, the nephew to Abram.Perhaps he would become the adopted son of Abram and thus fulfill the divine promise.

 

As we come to the end of the chapter, Lot has removed himself from the presence of Abram and has gone off to live in the area of Sodom.By doing so, he has effectively removed himself from Abram and the promises of a great nation.

 

It is in such a context that the Lord comes to Abram and confirms the earlier promise.Not only is that promise confirmed, we also read additional elements.Not only will Abram be a great nation, but his descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth.If you have seen pictures of Israel, you know there is a lot of dust there.

 

Abram is told to enter into a discipline of faith.He is to walk about the land through its length and breadth.He is to walk in the land that has been promised to him by God.This walk will be a walk of faith as he acts in accordance with the promise of his future possession.We are called to do the same thing.We are given a promise of eternal life and an eternal inheritance.In the meantime, we are called to live as though this inheritance were a present possession.We are called to live as overcomers because of the One who has overcome on our behalf.

 

This is a chapter of spiritual victory.The victory in this chapter is especially striking when contrasted with the defeat of the previous chapter.

 

Genesis 12

Genesis 13

Begins with Godís promises and ends with Abram going down into Egypt.

Begins with Abram coming back out of Egypt and ends with Godís promises.

Abram enters Canaan for the first time.

Abram enters Canaan for the second time.

Abram decides to go into Egypt.

Abram permits Lot to make the decision where he should go.

Abram intent on self protection.

Abram gives up his personal rights to the Lord.

A test of trust -- failed.

A test of values -- passed.

 

Lot chose for himself.God chose for Abram.The contrast between the two reminds us of One who made the ultimate choice on our behalf.Jesus was tempted by Satan to seek His own rights and His own comforts, but He gave those up to obtain an eternal inheritance for us.

 

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